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Wu-Tang’s RZA applies his cinematic method to the screen

Seeing the trailer for The Man with the Iron Fists on the big screen was enough to feel surreal to any Wu-Tang Clan fan: The RZA had arrived.

Having grown up watching classic martial arts movies in 42nd Street movie theaters, producer/rapper RZA cultivated a kung fu-inspired mythology that helped create cohesion both internally and for the public image of the sprawling hip-hop family he fostered. He evolved that vision through music videos, got deeper into Hollywood through acting, then fell under the guidance of Quentin Tarantino and good friend Eli Roth, whose Goretorium was where he chose to meet the press before a concert at the House of Blues.

It’s like an SNL skit from ’96: “Wu-Tang Makes a Kung Fu Movie”

Right! For real!

Like you’ve gone full circle back to the beginning, when the first Wu-Tang recordings elevated skits to a cinematic level. It’s like you were always thinking in terms of movies.

I have been, I have been. Those albums were movies to me. I try to make audio movies. When DVDs came out, I tried to tell the record companies, “Let’s do videos that are like short movies.” So you see “Gravel Pit” and “Triumph.” So we always had these ideas, but to take it to this level took a lot of time and preparation, a lot of reading, studying, and a lot of tutoring by being a student of Quentin Tarantino. It took all of those things. But this is full circle, and honestly I feel — and I see how the fans weighed in — but this feels to me as unique, as original and as potentially influential as [Enter the Wu-Tang] 36 Chambers.

Anyone who saw the kung-fu movies Master Killer and Executioners From Shaolin had an instant affinity for Wu-Tang upon hearing 36 Chambers.

Would you believe Gordon Liu from Master Killer is in my movie?

And Chen Kuan from Executioners From Shaolin.

Remember the dummy he practiced on, with grooves for vital zones? You’ll see something similar to that in my film. I used acupuncture meridians and took the idea from his metal training doll, and I built a big metal dummy. … It’s a chi thing, but I’m a comic book guy too. I’m a Star Wars guy. So I’m able to take that idea, and now we see it in a whole other way….

The production notes said you made homages to all the fighting styles you could think of and the cinematic ways of filming them.

The only style that didn’t make this film was the new style they use in Ong-bak and The Raid. The only reason that didn’t make the film was because I had seen Tony Jaa, but I couldn’t get him. But I had a chance to hook up with him two months ago, and I did a film with him. We talked. He loved the Iron Fists story, loved the trailer and I told him that I want him for part two. I want Tony Jaa for part two.